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UCLA School Mental Health Project
Center for Mental Health in Schools
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Continuing Education: Unit II

Addressing Barriers to Learning
New Directions for Mental Health in Schools

Mental Health Services & Instruction:
What a School Can Do


Deciding what is best for a child often poses a question no less ultimate than the purposes and values of life itself.
Robert Mnookin

Sections - Click below
Section A.
Screening and Assessment
Section B.
Problem Responce and Prevention
Section C.
Consent, Due Process, and Confidentiality
Networks of Care
Follow-Up Reading

Return to
Contents of All Three Units
SMHP Home Page

This unit is one of a set of three focused on the role of schools in addressing psychosocial and mental health problems that interfere with students' learning and performance.

When it comes to mental health and psychosocial problems, a school's staff doesn't have to look very hard to find them. Currently, the function of many specialists in schools is to deal with such problems by providing direct services and instruction

Effective pursuit of such functions requires working with others to enhance services and programs. This encompasses efforts to coordinate, develop, and provide leadership related to relevant programs, services, resources, and systems. It also involves enhancing connections with community resources.

Because they are inundated with students who need assistance for mental health and psychosocial concerns, a key service many schools find themselves providing is the identification and processing of such students. Major tasks in carrying out this service are

  • initial problem identification
  • screening/assessment
  • client consultation and referral
  • triage
  • initial case monitoring.

Schools also must be prepared to respond to students' psychological crises. And with respect to primary prevention and treatment, they often find themselves providing

  • mental health education
  • psychosocial guidance and support (classroom/individual)
  • psychosocial counseling.

School staff also are a valuable resource for ongoing case monitoring.

Schools of the 21st century will call upon us all to play new and expanding roles. Today's schools have both the opportunity and the responsibility to lead the way into the new century. To do so, they must become major participants in movements to reform and restructure schools, and they must help shape initiatives that are attempting to link community resources to schools.

Working closely with others who are concerned with psychosocial problems and healthy development, schools can broaden reform and restructuring in ways that truly address the barriers to student learning and enhance healthy development. In the process, they will continue to redefine their roles and functions and expand the ways in which schools contribute to the well-being of young people and the society.